Keeping it simple with wholefoods

Sophie Steevens
Sophie Steevens
A passionate proponent of natural, plant-based ingredients, Sophie Steevens wants to create awareness around wholesome eating.

The growth of the plant-based industry from niche to mainstream during the past few years has been really positive, she says.

Steevens’ journey began eight years ago when she was diagnosed with Graves disease, an autoimmune disease, and began to look deeper into the food she ate. She decided to remove all toxic chemicals, gluten and highly processed food from her diet.

In her second book, Simple Wholefoods, Steevens hopes to make it more achievable and enjoyable to flourish on a plant-based diet.

"I’m certainly not a qualified chef, nor do I class myself as an obsessed foodie, but through personal experience, I have become passionate about the importance of including an abundance of fruit and vegetable-led meals in one’s diet, whatever that may be, thus encouraging lifelong healthy habits."

Sophie Steevens and family. PHOTO: LOTTIE HEDLEY
Sophie Steevens and family. PHOTO: LOTTIE HEDLEY
Wholefoods are unprocessed or minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural, whole form as possible. So fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains.

"These highly nutritious foods retain the fibre and beneficial nutrients that are usually removed during heavy food processing."

When people feel hungry, they generally reach for what their tastebuds desire rather than what their bodies really need.

"By consciously eating a wide variety of these superfoods, we provide our bodies with the crucial nourishment required to thrive and function in optimum conditions."

Steevens advocates people ensure at least 80-90% of their diet is made up of plant-based wholefoods and that many of those are eaten raw as alkaline-forming foods help you become healthier and more robust.

She also encourages people to give up highly processed and packaged foods, hydrate better, exercise more regularly and get a good night’s sleep.

"Immerse yourself in nature."

To achieve all this, Steevens believes in a well-stocked pantry including some staple ingredients to use alongside seasonal fruits and vegetables, such as nuts and seeds, fresh and dried herbs and spices, beans and gluten-free wholegrains and flours.

The book includes a handy swaps table giving you options for everyday foods people may struggle to find alternatives for.

THE BOOK

Simple Wholefoods by Sophie Steevens published by Allen & Unwin NZ, RRP: $49.99. Photography by Lottie Hedley.

 

Bombay Jackfruit and Crispy Potato Mingle
with Apple, Lime and Coriander Chutney

This epic play on Bombay potatoes is quite an extraordinary throw-together meal that can be served hot, straight out of the oven, or cold for a large salad.

It encompasses four distinct flavours: sweet, sour, salt and spicy, which, along with numerous textures, morph into a glorious dish for lunch or dinner.

The chutney is incredibly refreshing and can either be tossed through the potatoes and jackfruit or served on the side. (I usually toss half of it through and serve the remainder on the side.)

Serves 4-6

700-800g baby potatoes, halved (or agria potatoes cut into small cubes)

olive or avocado oil (optional)

sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste

1 large red onion, finely sliced

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

2 x 400g cans young jackfruit, drained and broken into smaller pieces

1 Tbsp mild yellow curry powder

2 ½ Tbsp pure maple syrup

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

120g spinach leaves, roughly chopped

¼ cup coconut yoghurt, plus extra to serve

1 spring onion, finely sliced, to serve

Apple, lime and coriander chutney

2 cups fresh coriander

1 large granny smith apple

½ small green chilli (optional)

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger

2 Tbsp lime juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180degC fan-bake. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Bring a saucepan half-filled with water to a boil. Place the potatoes in a colander over the water, cover, and steam for 15 minutes, or until just tender. Transfer to the prepared tray. Lightly drizzle with oil, if using, and season to taste. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

For the chutney, place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend for about 25-30 seconds, or until it becomes a chunky chutney. You may need to stop the food processor, scrape down the sides, then blend again. Set aside.

When the potatoes are about 10 minutes away from being ready, heat a tablespoon of oil, if using, in a large frying pan over mediumhigh heat. Add the onion and cumin seeds and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and fragrant. Add the jackfruit, curry powder, maple syrup, salt and turmeric. Toss to combine and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, or until the spinach is just wilted.

Put the potatoes in a large bowl with the jackfruit mixture, coconut yoghurt and half the Apple, lime and coriander chutney, and toss to combine.

To serve, transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle over the sliced spring onion. Finish with a dollop of coconut yoghurt and serve the remaining chutney on the side.

 

Creamy Alfredo spaghetti
(with caramelised onion, broccoli and cheesy kale)

You can definitely count on this comforting pasta for an easy weekday dinner.

There are many things to love about it, from the cheesy, crispy kale to the caramelised onion, flavourful alfredo sauce and aromatic fresh thyme; each element does its part to create a heavenly pasta dish everyone will love.

Serves 4

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

250g gluten-free spaghetti

Cheesy kale

1 bunch curly kale or cavolo nero, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped

2 tsp olive oil

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste

¼ cup fresh thyme leaves

¼-½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)

Caramelised onions

1 Tbsp olive or avocado oil (optional)

2 large red onions, sliced

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1½ tablespoons coconut sugar or pure maple syrup

Creamy alfredo sauce

1 cup raw cashews, presoaked (see recipe notes)

¾ cup rice milk (or other plant milk)

½ cup nutritional yeast

2 stalks celery

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180degC fan-bake. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

For the Cheesy kale, place the kale or cavolo nero and oil in a large bowl. Use your hands to massage the oil into the leaves for about 1 minute, or until they begin to soften. Add the nutritional yeast, season to taste and massage the flavours into the leaves until evenly coated. Set aside.

Place the broccoli on the prepared tray and spread out in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes. Add the kale to the broccoli and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is just tender, and the kale is wilted and slightly charred. Watch closely for the last few minutes as the kale will burn quickly.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions (about 10-15 minutes).

For the Caramelised onion, heat the oil, if using, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until very soft and starting to caramelise. Add the vinegar and coconut sugar, reduce heat and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the onion mixture is dark brown and caramelised.

For the Creamy alfredo sauce, place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for 30 seconds, or until smooth and creamy.

Drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the caramelised onion, broccoli and cheesy kale, fresh thyme leaves and chilli flakes (if using), then pour over the sauce. Gently mix everything together until well combined.

Recipe notes

Soaking nuts and seeds: For some of my dressing recipes, cashews or sunflower seeds will need to be presoaked. Soaking nuts and seeds softens them, making them easier to blend to a smooth and creamy texture. Also, when nuts and seeds are soaked, it decreases the antinutrients (such as phytate or phytic acid) that block our body’s ability to absorb nutrients. To soak, simply place the nuts or seeds into a bowl, cover with water and leave for about eight hours. Drain and rinse before using. For a much faster preparation time, add them to a bowl of just-boiled water and soak for about an hour prior to using. This is what I usually do.

 

Mint Bounty Pistachio Slice

What makes this slice so special is the combo of three mild but distinct layers that fit perfectly to create a heavenly mouthful of minty, coconutty and chocolatey goodness.

I begin with a sweet hazelnut and cacao base, followed by a creamy peppermint and coconut filling, which is then slathered in a luscious chocolate ganache and finished with a light scattering of crunchy pistachios.

If you love minty flavours, this really is a simple slice that works wonders for an after-dinner treat. 

Makes 16 squares

Base

1 cup hazelnuts

10 large pitted medjool dates

2 Tbsp cacao powder

2 Tbsp coconut oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

pinch sea salt

Peppermint Bounty filling

3 cups desiccated coconut

⅔ cup coconut cream (thick top layer)

½ cup pure maple syrup

3 Tbsp coconut oil

4 drops pure essential peppermint oil (see tip at end of recipe)

few pinches spirulina powder (optional, for colour)

Chocolate ganache topping

¼ cup coconut oil

¼ cup cacao powder

3 Tbsp coconut cream (thick top layer)

3 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Topping

¼ cup chopped pistachios

Method

Line a 20cm square dish with baking paper.

For the base, place all the ingredients in a large food processor and blend to a semi-fine texture. Tip the mixture into the prepared dish and press down firmly to pack evenly. If needed, quickly rinse the food processor bowl and blade.

For the mint centre, place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend into a creamy mixture. Spoon the mixture on to the base and spread evenly. Place in the freezer for 12 hours to set.

For the chocolate topping, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add all the ingredients and stir until the coconut oil is melted and the ingredients are combined. Remove from the heat. Remove the slice from the freezer and pour over the chocolate layer. Finish with an even sprinkle of crushed pistachios. Return to the freezer for 1 hour to set.

To serve, remove from the dish and slice into 16 squares.

Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

Tip
I use Doterra pure essential peppermint oil in this recipe and I highly recommend it for the cleanest minty flavour. If using however, please follow the exact measurements I’ve given, as even 1 extra drop will create a big difference in flavour. To substitute, replace it with 1 teaspoon of pure mint extract.

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